SAXON / FM / WAYWARD SONS - Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow 18.10.18
PHOTO CREDITS: GAVIN ROSS PHOTOGRAPHY
The Barrowlands Ballroom has seen it all. Its name is renowned worldwide and most bands still regard it as a bucket list venue. The building still carries a scruffy grandeur that would have newcomers wondering what the attraction is but when a band starts playing, the acoustics speak for themselves.
Tonight, rock n roll grandfathers SAXON have rolled back into Glasgow. The fact that they celebrate their 40 year anniversary in 2019 is worthy of praise but the fact that they still play a formidable show is even more important. The show carries extra weight tonight however with two high-end support acts - WAYWARD SONS and FM, both of whom could headline in their own right.
WAYWARD SONS are now renowned for the quality of their shows and their appearance on stage doesn’t rely on pomp or circumstance. Instead, frontman Toby Jepson strolls on stage with a broad smile and nods to the room accompanied by his bandmates Nic Wastell (bass), Phil Martini (drums), Sam Wood (guitar) and Dave Kemp (keyboards).
The Sons’ set makes best use of the short time afforded them on this, their first night on tour. Jepson keeps the chat short to ensure the time is used well with opener ‘Alive’ planting a flag on the night. The song’s power and instant hook carries onto the stage and it’s obvious why it was used to open the band’s 2017 album ’Ghosts Of Yet To Come’ as well as their live performance.
With SAXON’s cloaked drum riser and bank of Marshalls pushing the band to the front of the stage, the engagement with the crowd is all the more evident. Wastell is particularly animated and shows more bass faces than I’ve seen at a gig in recent years. Ploughing through material from album ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’, this is a special opening act and their closer ‘Until the End’ receives a deserved reception. Looking around, I’m not sure I’ve seen such a full room for a first support act especially given their stage time being so early. That says it all really.
Go check out the tour dates and their particularly active social media here -
FM are already warmed up as they have been touring Europe for a couple of weeks before landing back in the UK. With a busy year under the belt, their delivery is polished and as usual - entirely uplifting.
Steve Overland (vocals and guitars), Merv Goldsworthy (bass guitar), Pete Jupp (drums), Jem Davis (keyboards) and Jim Kirkpatrick (guitar) are tight, slick and have a clear enjoyment in what they are so lucky to do for a living. Their engagement with each other on stage gives them an appeal that breaks the barrier between band and audience and it’s clear that they can laugh when unplanned things occur in a show.
Rather than squeezing the drums onto the front of the stage, Jupp is placed side on at the right of the stage. This doesn’t affect the show but I did laugh at one punter behind me who asked his buddy where the drummer was.
Opening with ‘Black Magic’ from this year’s ’Atomic Generation’ album, the pace is upbeat and a melody-fest throughout the nine song set. Overland’s vocals are as strong as ever across all their material with particular highlights ‘That Girl’ and ‘Tough it Out’ which are radio friendly and have the crowd helplessly singing along.
Kirkpatrick’s guitar work is on point and Goldsworthy carries the confidence that years on stage brings. It’s not so long ago that FM played in Glasgow on their headline tour with DARE but their energy and enjoyment is unwavering despite returning to a familiar crowd. Closing out with ‘Killed by Love’, they nail the set convincing those in the crowd who questioned whether they were the ‘right kind of band to support SAXON’.
FM still have the ability to write great songs and importantly - perform them. If you like your music to be feel-good and radio friendly, I’d recommend you check out their back catalogue and if you don’t mind singing along with strangers - go see them live.
Check out their socials here -
SAXON have endured four decades of genre flux and maintained a fanbase globally that must surely be the envy of their peers. Their history has featured band splits, spandex and more albums than I can count even with my socks off. Their live show still gains them sell out crowds and tonight is no exception as frontman Biff Byford proudly mentions later during the show.
Opening with three ‘newer’ tracks, the band deliver pure power. The now established line up of Biff Byford (vocals), Nibbs Carter (bass), Nigel Glockler (drums), Paul Quinn (guitar) and Doug Scarratt (guitar) are pure class. The band is much like others with different dynamics onstage - Byford has a swagger and has the crowd in the palm of his hand whilst Carter sprints from stage to drum riser whilst trying to separate his head from his neck. Quinn and Scarratt swap solos, riffs and licks in a carefully choreographed partnership and Glockler is the machine he always has been using his legendary double kick style that many bands of his era avoided (probably due its technical difficulty).
The quality of SAXON’s back catalogue is endless and there are songs that couldn’t be left out such as ‘747’, ‘Princess of the Night’ and the genre-defining ‘Denim and Leather’. Byford patrols the stage like a ringmaster and his stage banter is familiar to those of us who have followed them since their early days. The ubiquitous reference to the other town and cities on the tour schedule draws the now ironic response from a crowd who play along with the game.
Sliding back to new material, ’Sons of Odin’ from the new album is solid and like much of the current work - heavy. SAXON’s understanding of keeping material fresh yet tethered to their original works is clear. This track is attractive to a wider audience - a younger one in fact.
The younger fanbase are present tonight but most of those standing around me remember that a band would appear on stage in the dark and leave after an encore or two. Tonight there are two. Closing out the show with ‘Wheels of Steel’ and ‘Denim and Leather’ is perfect and is as nostalgic as it is emotional. Byford dons a jacket and cut-off vest thrust at him by a punter down the front and rounds off a great night with some misty eyes watching, harking back to those formative years.
SAXON still have it and it’ll be interesting to see what their 40th anniversary year brings.
You will undoubtedly find out here -
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